STICK TO THE GUIDELINES
That’s the view of Palo Alto, Calif.-based
Bon Appétit Management Company
(BAMCO), which operates more than
400 kitchens in corporate cafeterias,
universities and other venues. In
September, the company appointed 15
foragers to help source regional items,
with the goal of partnering with 1,000
farm-to-fork vendors by 2011, a goal they
hit by early January.
“It’s blown me away,” says Helene York,
director of strategic initiatives for BAMCO.
“Who knew there was local tofu in D.C. or
garlic in Massachusetts? We even found a
miller of grits in Georgia. You would think
there were a lot of local grits in Georgia, but
nope. It’s been consolidated, and we found it.”
For BAMCO forager Peter Abrahamson,
general manager for the Northfield, Minn.,
St. Olaf College cafeteria, finding the right
local product can be tricky.
“We do 34,000 meals a week, and use
a lot of product. Quantity can be a deal-breaker for us. It’s tough to get someone
small enough that they’re passionate and
keep their hands on their particular item,
but not so small that they can’t supply us
with product,” he says.
Russ Cohen gathers oyster mushrooms, top, and morels, ramp leaves and oyster
mushrooms from the Berkshires, bottom right. The lactarius, left, were foraged by
a 150-mile radius; and company food
standards, such as no antibiotics, etc., apply.
Food items are assigned a code for tracking.
“The goal is to get to the 20% mark,” says
Abrahamson. “We’re at 18% now.”
“Once you get the base organization [of
suppliers] set up, it’s suddenly like-minded
people. You can say, ‘I’m looking for this,’
and they know someone, and people start
knocking on your door.”
Corporate BAMCO set up specific
guidelines that company foragers such as
Abrahamson, and the suppliers he taps, are
required to follow. The company must be
owner-operated; sales need to be $5 million
or less if crop-based (but can be higher for
proteins); land-based food must be within
He says BAMCO isn’t the only one to
benefit from foragers focusing on harder-
to-find items. “One of the best things
about the process is that the farmers we
work with can now get health insurance
because we can commit to them, and they
spread the word.
Calif.-based writer Clare Leschin-Hoar's
work has appeared in The Wall Street
Journal, SciAm.com, San Diego Magazine,
Grist.org and many more. Follow her on